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PACER Plus Trade Agreement A Farce Without Fiji

PACER Plus Trade Agreement A Farce Without Fiji
Editorial
April 22
11:16 2017

How can PACER Plus regional trade negotiations conclude and a venue for the signing of the final document be finalised without Fiji?

And, where did Australia and New Zealand trade ministers get the idea that Fiji had opted not to sign?

Fiji thought the negotiations were still ongoing. As far as Fiji is concerned, they were still having discussions.

The meeting where the so-called final discussions were held, was not attended by the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya. He gave it a miss because of prior commitments here.

It is not that others were not told of this. It is not that the Fijian Trade Minister had kept this top secret.

Fiji had written to them asking that the meeting be deferred. Fiji most certainly did not say that they were opting out of it.

Fiji did not opt out of PACER Plus negotiations, it was excluded.

It appears that Australia and New Zealand had used strong arm tactics to keep Fiji out.

It is shocking that New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay’s office released a media statement after the so-called finalising of negotiations.

This is what he had to say: “This is a significant achievement. After eight years of negotiations, we can now focus on implementing an agreement which future-proofs our access whilst helping develop their export economies….

“The agreement will also create a common set of trading rules covering goods, services and investment in support of economic growth. These rules will help reduce tariffs and red tape for exporters and investors, which will increase the attractiveness of the region for trade and investment.

“The 14 countries participating in PACER Plus are New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.”

No, Mr Clay, Fiji is also a country participating in PACER Plus and you cannot, at a whim, decide that Fiji’s absence is a sign of their non-participation. Word had been sent about the unavailability of the Trade Minister to attend the Brisbane meet.

To make matters worse, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo was quoted by the media confirming “both Fiji and Papua New Guinea had elected not to sign up.”

Who is he to speak on Fiji’s behalf? Did he get any written confirmation from Fiji that we were not signing?

Was this being done to hasten the process so that the points that Fiji had been arguing, which, by the way would benefit Pacific Island countries, are silenced?

Mr Ciobo and Mr Clay can be rest assured that Fiji is not going to keep quiet about this. The two have made a mockery of eight long years of negotiations. The “agreement” was a farce, engineered by Australia and New Zealand.

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